The aviation industry is buzzing with discussions about raising the mandatory retirement age for federal air traffic controllers (ATC) and pilots. If enacted, this change could extend careers and massively impact retirement planning for the federal aviation community. Understanding the potential implications can help you stay prepared.

The Importance of Mandatory Retirement Ages

Currently, the ATC retirement age is set at 56, while pilots are subject to a mandatory retirement age of 65. This differs significantly from the majority of civilian Feds, who do not face specific age caps.

The mandatory air traffic controller retirement age is set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It aims to address safety concerns surrounding age-related cognitive and physical decline. The high-pressure nature of the job requires excellent concentration, decision-making, multitasking, memory and visual skills, which research shows may begin to deteriorate as early as age 45

For pilots, the age limit is set by international standards from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Pilots over 60 must undergo medical examinations every six months to ensure they remain fit to fly. Currently, federal pilots must retire by age 65 regardless of examination results.

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Understanding Potential Adjustments

In response to increasing demand and pilot shortages, lawmakers and industry stakeholders have discussed raising the mandatory retirement age for pilots from 65 to 67. Supporters of this proposal argue that extending the retirement age would allow experienced pilots to remain in the workforce longer, helping to address the critical shortage of pilots in the industry. 

With advancements in healthcare and an increase in overall longevity, many workers are capable of maintaining their performance levels well into their later years. Technological advancements and changing work environments can also make it safer for pilots to work at older ages, as improved systems and support tools help mitigate the physical and cognitive demands of the job.

Financial Planning for Extended Careers

For now, at least, it seems as though the mandatory retirement age of 65 is here to stay for pilots. If changes to the mandatory retirement age do come to fruition, however, adapting your financial strategies may help create a more secure retirement. Delaying Social Security benefits could result in higher monthly payments, for example. For each year you delay claiming benefits past your full retirement age, your social security payments increase, up to age 70. Maximizing retirement account contributions during the final years of employment can also help you leverage the additional years of income. In addition, you may consider adjusting your investment portfolio to align with an extended working timeline.

Prepare Yourself Today  

Although the proposal to raise the mandatory retirement age for pilots did not pass in 2024, it could resurface in the future, making it important to prepare for potential changes. Stay abreast of policy changes by monitoring reliable sources including the FAA website, industry newsletters, and professional organizations.

Also consider consulting with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional who can tailor your financial strategy to accommodate longer working years. To find a fed-focused advisor who can help you build a plan based on your unique goals, reach out to the team at Serving Those Who Serve at [email protected] to schedule a complimentary financial planning consultation. 


The information has been obtained from sources considered reliable but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Serving Those Who Serve writers  and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy suggested. Every investor’s situation is unique and you should consider your investment goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon before making any investment or financial decision. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. While we are familiar with the tax provisions of the issues presented herein, as Financial Advisors of RJFS, we are not qualified to render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. **

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